Triratna News

Dharmaduta touring in India

On Sun, 27 January, 2013 - 05:49
lokabandhu's picture
Ujukarin is a Dutch Order Member regularly visiting and teaching Triratna groups in both India and Sri Lanka. Here he writes with some reflections on his recent India visit, saying - “Here’s a small set of reflections based on a 10-day ‘Dharmaduta tour’ I made recently through southern Maharastra ending in Karnataka (Dharmaduta is a traditional term meaning ‘messenger of the Dharma’) I do these regularly as a ‘small fish’ in the ‘big Indian pond’ of Sangha activities, partly to maintain the cooperation between the Indian and Sri Lankan sanghas and of course my own friendship with Prajnajit, an Indian Order Member who often accompanies me.

The tour itself, purely in facts, was nothing special, with audiences on average 75-100 people (except for our talk at the full-day celebration of Ambedkar’s Conversion Day in the huge Siddhart Buddha Vihar in Gulbarga, Karnataka; where the audience was at least 1,000 persons!) What was interesting was the theme: with our audiences we explored the topic of ‘how to prevent the Indian sangha falling into too much ethnic Buddhism’; drawing on our observation of the degeneration and frequent emptiness of temples in places like Japan, Korea and Sri Lanka. Here’s some reflections arising from the trip, including also some comparisons to our last Dharmaduta tour made in 2011:

· The sangha, our audience, keeps on developing on par with the whole Indian economy and society. The number of students with mobile Internet, immediately making a Facebook connection, was surprising!
· However the deep shortcomings of Indian religious divisions and the caste system still remain. For instance we visited friends in Umarga, including their Hindu relatives who live one level down in the same house. Those relatives only let us in because I’m a Westerner, normally my Indian friends are kept outside that house because still they are considered (Buddhist) Untouchables!
· In the light of these shortcomings, it was even more surprising to see small Hindu shrines reappearing in the houses of some of our new Buddhist followers. Their motivation seemed to be ‘the more deities I worship, even next to Buddha, the more chance for wealth’! We wondered, ‘is that really how Dr. Ambedkar would have wanted it…?’
· But there were other dangers too, appearing from Buddhism’s apparent successful revival in India - for instance we heard the new Delhi Formula 1 race circuit was christened ‘Buddh International Circuit’ by the local province PM at that time, an Ambedkarite. Actually I can understand that fits into the developing of the Dalits on par with the whole Indian society - what surprised me was the fact that most of our Indian students saw associating the Dharma with such an eco-unfriendly activity as F1 racing in a positive light, well…! It took me quite some time to explain that Western Buddhists see this differently, even as a risk for degeneration into ethnic-Buddhism-with-empty-temples…

But this does not deter us from an overall quite positive impression – the Dharma is back for good in its country of birth and can be a light for the world there too!

With folded palms,
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